Process Serving

So you have been served legal papers in a legal proceeding. Or someone is trying to serve you legal papers. What does all of this mean? What should you do? Below are a number of frequently asked questions concerning the service of papers. These are general questions and general answers. They should not be viewed as legal advice (disclaimer). You should read and understand what has been given to you, and then consult a legal professional if you require legal assistance.

What does it mean to be served?
"Service of Process" is the procedure by which a party to a legal action gives appropriate notice of the legal action to another party in an effort to enable that person to respond to the proceeding in an appropriate manner.  Notice is furnished by delivering a set of court documents (called "process") to the person to be served. In other words, being served means you are being given court documents for a legal case you are involved in so that you can prepare and respond to it in an appropriate manner.
Can the Process Server answer legal questions for me?
The Process Server is not a lawyer and should not be giving any legal advice.
Will I be embarrassed when I get served?
The actual service usually takes less than a minute and any reputable Process Server will do whatever they can to minimize the spotlight and embarrassment. Papers are usually in an un-marked envelope. And any reputable server will do what they can to minimize attention to the matter.
I don’t want to get served at work as it would be very embarrassing in front of my co-workers… what should I do?
Contact the Process Server or the Lawyer on file to make appropriate arrangements for a time and place to be served. The actual service usually takes less than a minute and any reputable Process Server will do whatever they can to minimize the spotlight and embarrassment.
What happens after I get served?
Firstly, read the document carefully.  Ensure that you understand what it is for and why you are getting it.   Then immediately provide the document to your legal counsel.  Legal counsel may be a lawyer you have retained, or in the case where insurance is involved, it may mean providing your insurance company with the documents so they can proceed properly.  If you are self-representing, then you should make yourself aware of the proper next steps in procedure and adhere to the appropriate rules. You should never just ignore it as this may jeopardize your ability to defend yourself.
What are the rules for serving me?
The rules of service will depend on the document being served, the jurisdiction the document originated in, and the jurisdiction the document is being served in.
I don’t want to open my door to a stranger… what should I do?
If this is a concern, there are a number of alternatives. In many cases, the Rules of Service may allow you to identify yourself through the door to the process server. The process server can then leave the documents outside the door for you. If this is not an option, then have the Process Server leave his/her card with his/her number or the office number on it and then ask him/her to leave. You can then call the number on the card and make an appointment to be served at a time and place that you feel comfortable.
What time can you serve me at?
Timing is usually very flexible. Contact the Process Server or the Lawyer on file to make appropriate arrangements for a time and place to be served.
Can I pick up the documents or do they have to be delivered to my home?
Service of Process can happen anywhere. Contact the Process Server or the Lawyer on file to make appropriate arrangements for a time and place to be served.
What do I do if I am out of the City / Country?
The best option is to call the Process Server or the Lawyer on file immediately and explain the situation. Usually, arrangements can be made to be served on your return, or if the timelines are such that service needs to be done as soon as possible, arrangements may be made to serve you wherever you happen to be.
What happens if I just refuse to be served?
This is never a good strategy. A variety of processes have been put in place to deal with situations like this. Usually, the end result is increased costs to the person who is evading service, and unfavourable results in the matter at hand.
Why can’t you just leave the papers with someone else?
Depending on the document being served, it may be acceptable to leave the document with someone else. However, it is imperative that the Process Server follows the Rules of Civil Procedure that are in place both in the jurisdiction where the proceeding commenced as well as the jurisdiction where the service is being completed. Depending on the jurisdiction, the level of court, and the type of document being served, it may or may not be appropriate to leave the documents with someone else.
Why use a Process Server?
There are a number of reasons why you may want to use a Process Server to complete a Serve.  Reasons may include:
  • The rules for serving of Court documents may be complicated. Legal documents must be served properly otherwise they may not be deemed valid resulting in potential problems, even dismissal, of the legal action.
  • You may not want to confront the person that you are suing in court.
  • You may consider giving the document to a friend to serve but there is a possibility that the Courts may find that the serve was not done properly and that the friend is not an un-biased participant.
  • The person that you are suing may be in hiding or has moved.
  • You may feel that it is too dangerous for you to serve the person that you are suing.
Who is it that served me? What is a process server?
A Process Server is a person who physically delivers the court documents to the intended recipient. They are an un-biased, third party to the action whom the courts can rely on to truthfully state (through an Affidavit of Service) that a serve was performed. A Process Server has no involvement in the case itself other than delivering the documents. They are literally “just the messenger”.
What if I am not the right person?
If you feel that you received a document mistakenly, contact the lawyer(s) listed on the documents immediately. They will work with you to ensure the situation is resolved.
What do I do now that I have been served?
Firstly, read the document carefully.  Ensure that you understand what it is for and why you are getting it.   Then immediately provide the document to your legal counsel.  Legal counsel may be a lawyer you have retained, or in the case where insurance is involved, it may mean providing your insurance company with the documents so they can proceed properly.  If you are self-representing, then you should make yourself aware of the proper next steps in procedure and adhere to the appropriate rules. You should never just ignore it as this may jeopardize your ability to defend yourself.
Why am I being served?
You are being served to inform you of your involvement in a legal proceeding, or to provide you with information that is pertinent to you regarding an existing legal proceeding.
Who is authorized to be a Process Server?
This depends on what jurisdiction you live in.   Different jurisdictions have different requirements for someone to be authorized to serve process.  Some of these requirements may include one or more of the following criteria: (a) Age of Majority, (b) Relation to either party in the action, (c) Past criminal record, (d) Various licenses mandated by the governing authority in your jurisdiction, (e) Training programs mandated by the governing authority in your jurisdiction, (f) Other requirements.  To determine the specific requirements in your jurisdiction, please contact your local governing authority for more details.
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